It seems like it’s nigh-impossible to talk about Israeli ‘workplace’ dramedy Zero Motivation without referencing Office Space. Give or take a Jarhead, though, I’d argue that Talya Lavie’s feature-length debut more closely resembles The Office (the UK version).
Both The Office and Zero Motivation make paperwork integral to their story, for example; the former takes place in a paper company while the latter centres on a pair of appropriately unmotivated Israeli conscripts given the positions of Postal NCO and “Paper and Shredding NCO” respectively (they mostly just play Minesweeper). We’re even presented this invented Kafka quote: “The chains that bind mankind are made of office paperwork.” The film also shares the grim streak running through Gervais’ TV series; each of the three tales open with cynical comedy but turn sharply towards tragedy in their final minutes.
While the best things about Zero Motivation are its humour and closely-observed female relationships, Lavie clearly has something to say about the Israeli military. Her sharp satire is, notably, double-edged, directing ire at the paternalistic sexism of the higher ranks and the solipsism of her shiftless protagonists alike. It’s an intriguing and entertaining insight into the conflicted politics of modern Israel – and funny besides.